25 August 2021

As part of its various scientific activities and events, TRENDS Research and Advisory held on Tuesday, 24th of August 2021, a symposium titled “The Future of Wars and Military Industries”, which discussed the expected changes in the future of wars and military industries in light of the technological advancements taking place in the world.

Moderated by Dr. John Bruni, founder and CEO of SAGE International Australia (SIA), an elite group of researchers, defense specialists, and military, strategic, and security analysts participated in the symposium.

The participants confirmed that the strategies of future wars and military industries will largely depend on artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, which already plays a major and effective role in wars and military armament. They pointed out that these new technologies have revolutionized the military capabilities of armies, and will be dominant in future wars and global military industries to the point where robots replace human beings in the battlefields.

Alya Al-Junaibi, resident fellow at TRENDS Research and Advisory, who introduced the symposium speakers, said the of future wars will change in tandem with the developments of their tools, and will be less dependent on human element. They will rely on technological capabilities and artificial intelligence technologies. She explained that the symposium discusses the expected future developments in military industries, indicating that major military powers are increasingly investing in innovation and development.

Ms. Al-Junaibi asked about the expected next steps in future of wars in light of the intense rivalry and competing ambitions and goals of the United States, China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, and how will the security and stability of the Middle East be affected by these developments? And will social, political and cultural context determine where, when and why wars occur?

Dr. John Bruni, founder and CEO of SAGE International Australia (SIA), who moderated the symposium, talked about the topics to be discussed, which included the possibilities, challenges and future opportunities that would determine the dominance of artificial intelligence (AI) in military capabilities, as well as the future prospects for global defense industries.

AI and Military Capabilities in the 21st Century

Yaakov Lappin (Research Associate, Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Israel) presented a paper titled “AI and Military Capabilities in the 21st Century: Possibilities, Challenges, and Future Opportunities”. In his paper, he asserted that AI technologies have revolutionized military capabilities at the tactical and strategic levels, and have increasingly become part of military equipment, ranging from radars and information analysis systems to autonomous platforms.

He added that AI has become an integral part of modern wars fought by the Israeli armed forces, as AI systems increasingly help field commanders in taking real-time decisions, and enable military intelligence units to detect targets automatically. They also help the General Staff of the Armed Forces in making strategic decisions.

Lappin explained that AI systems are capable of scanning massive amounts of data and locating operational information. As a result, they have become an important part of armies’ capabilities to track sensitive targets when confronting the so-called “terrorist armies”.

He cited a number of examples of how AI has become a key part of combat capabilities. He also talked about the next generation of the autonomous armored vehicles, the Carmel, which are currently being developed for the Israeli Ministry of Defense, as well as a number of other systems developed by leading Israeli defense companies.

Expecting a new industrial revolution in armament industry, Lappin said international armies are trying to adapt to modern technological developments, adding that AI will affect decision-making in future wars. He noted that AI technologies are able to pinpoint stationary and moving targets with high precision and provide invaluable advantages which conventional weapons lack.

Lappin added that AI is being used to build autonomous platforms for future battles, explaining that future wars will be different from past wars because they will use battle simulation systems and advance war planning based on AI advanced tactics.

Innovation and R&D in the Global Defense Industry: The Way Forward

Dr. Uzi Rubin (Israeli defense engineer and analyst, Research Fellow, Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, Israel) presented a paper titled “Innovation and R&D in the Global Defense Industry: The Way Forward”. He said history shows that technology has shaped battlefields and wars and decided the course of wars. Modern technologies have been the main driver of new weapons, tactics and strategies, and they have even come to shape and determine the fate of countries and the course of history.

He pointed out that industrial revolution has recently dominated the battlefields and changed the war from mobile to stationary state in WWI, and then from stationary to mobile state in WWII. In the aftermath of the WWII, battlefields have been dominated by large, heavy, complex and costly war machines and imprecise firepower.

Dr. Uzi Rubin explained that the second industrial revolution – known as the Global Technology Revolution – has introduced precision weapons to battlefields and there have been two obvious trends: first, the cost of main fighting platforms, especially combat plane, was skyrocketing, making them almost unaffordable. Second, computing power of modern solid-state systems have been multiplying itself every 18 months; and this has enabled the intelligentization of unsophisticated munitions and turned them into cheap but sophisticated and pinpoint precision weapons.

Dr. Rubin noted that these transformations have changed the nature of war and the face of battlefields. Also, the rising cost has reduced conventional war systems, compared to modern weapons which are countered by and active autonomous defense system. He said that technological developments may make future battlefields void of people. Military troops will be kept back and out of danger, operating on screens in bunkers far behind the frontlines.

He added that in modern time, very low-cost advanced precision weapons have become available, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now able to carry smart bombs and hit targets with very high precision. He explained that modern technology revolution we are witnessing today has both military and societal consequences.

Dr. Rubin pointed out that autonomous, remotely controlled combat vehicles, robots will replace humans on the battlefields.

Open Discussion

In the open discussion on the topics of the symposium, the speakers stressed that dealing with moral risks in smart wars must be improved in order to make wars clean and free from fatal errors. It must also be made sure that human element is in control of technological systems and its he who gives permission to open fire. In addition to that, there is a need to confront acts of piracy which impair the ability to control and prevent moral risks in the field of hi-tech armament.

They said countries of the world are shifting to the fifth generation of weaponry, making armament and combat systems much less costly than before. Meanwhile, hi-tech weapons will not become a substitute for traditional combat strategy but a complementary to it because their importance changes according to the geographical scope of the fighting, the nature of wars and the weapons used.

At the end of the symposium, Dr. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Ali, CEO of TRENDS Research and Advisory, thanked the participants in the symposium for the valuable and rich ideas the provided in their papers and the open discussion. He explained that by organizing such symposiums and lectures, TRENDS seeks to provide useful information to decision-makers and all members of society.